It was with something of a heavy heart that I ran the last of the St Lucia Photography workshops for African Impact last week. This was the last time (theoretically) that the photography project will take place in St Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. As of January next year the Photography workshop and project will find a new home in Thanda Private Game Reserve. I’ll still be there though, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss St Lucia and the friends that I have made there over the past two and a half years.
Talk about weather this last week! It rained, and then it sat...that horrible weather where the clouds sink low and solid above the veldt. No puffs of colour, no differentiation, just grey. Setting out into the park you have to wonder whether anything will come of all that damp stuff...but oh my, when the clouds part magic happens! It just goes to show, keep at it regardless of the weather and the shots will appear. In this case it was while looking out from the viewpoint above Mission rocks in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Another unique aspect of this particular workshop was the coincidental clash with the migration of brown-veined meadow-white butterflies. Here, the weather actually assisted the photographers. Making an early start for a field where I suspected they might have over-nighted, we found them cold and a little damp. Perfect for sitting still and letting the photographers get to grips with macro photography.
On the last morning of shooting we made our way down to the estuary to photograph the sunrise. There were heavy clouds again, but shafts of sunlight, God beams as some like to call them, sliced through the sky to create some wonderful imagery. Coffee brown water washed ashore, signs of an overflowing Imfolozi River. Fantastic news for both the people and the park around St Lucia (St Lucia town has had severe water restrictions for over 6 weeks, with some of the outlying areas like Monzi not receiving water for closer to 9 weeks). Maybe more rains like these will finally start to replenish the estuary itself.
I have had a fantastic two years working in St Lucia. It’s been sad to see the diminishing lake as the mismanagement over decades and excessive forestry in the interior have conspired to slowly drain it’s life-blood, water. Thankfully the northern portions are to a lesser degree affected, although they haven’t escaped entirely either. Nevetherless, the Greater St Lucia Park is a miracle of biodiversity that needs to be protected. Hopefully the imagery created by the photographers that have taken part in the workshops and photography for conservation project will contribute in some small way to protecting, if not actually saving the delicate ecosystem that is iSimangaliso.
As of next year though, I’ll be concentrating on the beautiful hills and thornveld savannah of Thanda. I’m sure that the photography students to come will have a fantastic time documenting this little piece of Africa.